With these acquisitions, Google and AOL have taken another large step towards encompassing the top of the digital advertising funnel. Both of these giants have been slowly progressing towards top-funnel domination, as they’ve gobbled up one large AdTech company after another. Their collective purchases of ad servers, ad exchanges, DSPs, SSPs, and DMPs have given them the capacity to serve and target ads very effectively across search, display, mobile and video channels. The question now is: Which marketing channels are working best?
Attribution companies like Adometry and Convertro have approached the answer to this question head on. By creating partnerships with search engines, ad servers, affiliate networks and more, they’ve developed the ability to look back at a new customer’s history and see the exact path taken as that consumer wound their way through the so-called “buyer’s journey.” As this data is collected by the attribution technology, trends emerge that help marketers identify the extent to which each of their media-buying efforts are effecting sales or conversions. Attribution alone, however, doesn’t provide marketers the ability to execute upon their insights (i.e., optimize programs and measure the outcome).
These two recent acquisitions make a dent in resolving this issue by connecting attribution to ad serving and data management capabilities. Once integrated, the CMO will be able to track everywhere their digital dollar is being spent and identify successful tactics with far more accuracy. Marketers will be able to use a single system to execute their buys, learn how the ad mix either contributes to the sale or overlaps redundantly (or simply fails), and trust the system to optimize the results for them.
The effects on the industry will likely be wide and substantial. Deeper understanding of channel performance, as well as transparency into the ways specific ads affect customer engagement and sales, should certainly shake up media spend trends a bit. Billions are spent every year driving consumers through the digital sales funnel; understanding their journey and executing seamlessly will have a significant impact on who receives the ad spend and who doesn't. These events may cause some major budget disruption.
On a tangential note, we may want to keep in mind that two of the largest media companies are buying technology that was designed to measure and evaluate the quality of their primary commodity. Some important questions being asked as recently as yesterday: Will these acquisitions undermine a certain level of data neutrality and/or objectivity? Will they cause future issues with regard to data ownership? These are common themes being discussed throughout marketing as a whole, and they seem to be sparking a move to solution connection versus acquisition (see our recent post on the Platform Wars). Trying to address these questions here, however, would lead to a discussion beyond the scope of this post.
A more important concern is that these companies, with all their reach, still don’t provide the full-funnel view of digital marketing — just advertising. There are gray areas blind to cookies and device ID technologies, where the consumer’s actions suddenly cause them to drop off the face of the internet, only to resurface in a marketing automation platform or CRM without a digital footprint. The AdTech "giants" have, for this reason, mostly ignored lead generation and prospect acquisition, both of which are often more important for generating sales. This is driving CMOs to adopt marketing technology (MarTech) to take an integrated view of the customer, including digital and offline. The importance of a focus on discovering, engaging, nurturing and serving the customer has led to the massive growth of companies like SalesForce, Marketo and Eloqua as brands continue to spend budget on driving demand year after year.
Marketers need a way to merge these efforts with the rest of their digital media. They need a true all-encompassing attribution model, whether through an all-inclusive suite or through multi-solution integrations.